Sunday, October 5, 2014

Caribbean racing on Hogfish Maximus and other sailboats.

 The leeward and Windward islands of the Caribbean Sea host enough sailing regattas to satisfy any and all sailboat types , skippers and crews. From flat out racing to casual fun class kinda racing, classic boats , mega yachts , multi hull , local traditional boats and racing for charter boats.
Along with the racing comes all the partying , meeting other crews, and getting to know the island you are anchored off of and being hosted by.
I have been able to race in many of the great regattas as crew on other boats . This I like best as I do not have to worry about what will break and how the race is to be run. I like just having a job to do , watch the unfolding drama , scenery ,some times chaos , and just by being at sea on really fast sailing machines. These boats are always way above my pay grade and ambition so it's great to be on them at their best. It's also nice to be with winning crews. 
For one season I was crew on a J109 racing in most of the regattas as the spinnaker sheet trimmer when running, and the jib sheet tender when on the wind. This kept me in the companion way and the cockpit. A safe place. It was always a drama when approaching the leeward mark with the chute up doing 10-12 knots with the owner skipper steering saying he wanted to lower the chute within a boat length of the mark while we would be re hoisting the jib and sheeting in to weather in 20 plus knots of wind with at least 8 other boats next to us thinking the same thing.
We always had a pick up crew of at least 7 different nationalitys on board that all spoke English but had different meanings for all parts on the boats and maneuvers . 
I would in my mind at these times wondered what it would be like to be on a professional all New Zealand run crew.
For me in my safe spot my job was to ease the chute sheets, lower the chute , retract the bowsprit, and start sheeting in the jib. The fordeck guys would be hauling in the chute through the forward hatch,  
At the same time hoisting the jib tru it's foil head stay slot , the main sheet guy who would be the strongest crew on board was supposed to be keeping the boat on its feet by letting out and sheeting in , the rail crew were to ease the vangs and start leaning out. 
During all this the skippers job was to speak calmly giving directions to where we were headed with all the other boats a few feet away going like a bat out of hell alonside us.....
What would happen was a boat in front would get a huge gust at the same time as us ,loose control and just flat lay over on its side in front of us so we would then head up a bit which would cause us to do the same and over we would go with the chute flailing away trying to dismast us with  the cockpit in the water , the foredeck guys trying to not slide over the side the skipper yelling to dump the main , get the chute in, the jib up and why the hell is everything taking so long.
I liked my central spot and knowing I only had to do something when told to so never got in trouble . 
I could just scrunch up my ball sack and watch the madness ensue.
Not all races were like this. Having a tacking duel with a similar boat going to weather in good strong Caribbean winds and sea with good crew and boats that could point to weather 20 degrees higher than most all other cruising boats doing 71/2 knots plus was a joy to behold.
 The Hogfish Maximus is not a boat fast enough for racing in that her weak point is in going to weather she is a bit slower than needed to be competitive. Reaching she can hold her own and beat most similar cruisers . If all races were close hauled or reaching we would be in the money.
I like to race the Hogfish in local island races for many reasons knowing that we will never be competitive. First off when entering a race you pay a small fee which is less than a $100.00 . For these fees you are then given a case of beer , a bottle of good rum ,some tee shirts and other stuff. You are also adding to the number of boats racing and that adds clout to the local island in the papers. There are tons of boats at anchor off these islands but most owners do not want to know how slow their boats are so stay at anchor. I race to see how fast my boat is against others , to learn how to try and catch up to the others that are faster. We have invited a lot of other people to crew for us and have a blast just by being out there.
The times we have done really well were when top notch racing helmsmen were steering the Hogfish with me trimming the main. 
You can learn more about your sailing skills and the speed of your boat by having other crew aboard and chasing faster boats.
After all the racing comes the partying ashore. Nothing like being on the winning boat.
One of the best prizes awarded to a boat I was on was for a second place finish in the Grenada round the island race on the  J109 " Pocket Rocket". First place got a one night stay in an apartment room on island and we received a case of Gernadas best aged Rum !!! Life is good. 
So if down island with your cruiser sign up to race , hold back a bit at the start to let the real racers get away and then just sail,learn but have a good time as there are no losers when it comes to the party ashore.

Heineken Regatta in St. Martin  on Pocket Rocket J109

That me on the stern peeing, we are still doing 71/2 knots to weather in the close to 30 we were racing in. Main tore as we did our last tack around the leeward side but boat speed is so good in the Jboats we just kept going. Came in fourth place .

That's me in the red hat!

Crew party afterwards. Italian, Englih, Irish ,Scot, New Zealand, my daughter Kalessin, and Tony 
Another Irishman.

Kalessin standing watch as the two of us sail the J109 back to its home in Grenada. 168 miles the first 
Day towing a huge inflatable. What a boat, but like ridding a horse all day as she would wear you out with the motion.

We have just won the best dressed Pirate crew when racing on the Farr 60' Farrfly.

A case of rum for second place !

 Our glory day having won first place in the fun class.

Racing our friends on Grace May an old Prout cat. She's overhauling us here.

All 16 and under kids placing 3 rd in the Grenada series of big boat racing. The skipper steered the one off Swan 42 while these kids did all the sail work including the spinnaker. This was against hard sailing adults including the boat that I was crewing on. The crew consisted of the three boys in black with my daughter Kalessin here holding the prize of Gin. The kid with the hat behind her is Sam Goodchild who has gone on to be a very successful offshore racer. Look his name up you will be amazed.

Size is relative they say ,but bigger sure goes faster.

On the Farr 60 Farrfly we are smoking by this very heavy cutter during Antigua race week.

These guys sailed all the way from Austrlia to race at Antigua and beat us to boot.

Some good deals to be found ... A cheap mainmast for a Bolger ?

Crew rail meat feet.

Hogfish going to weather in the Bequia Round island Race.

Rounding the point with the whole Atlantic out front.

The seas are about 6-8' here rounding the weather point in Bequia. 

If only it drew 27"

See you out there this winter as Hogfish Maximus will be in the West Indies for this winter sailing about chasing boats.

No comments: